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Priest urges Muslim religious leaders to confront extremism

Priest urges Muslim religious leaders to confront extremism
Fr. Sebastian D’Ambra of Silsilah Dialogue Movement speaks at the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy at the UST Pavilion in Manila, January 17, 2017.  ROY LAGARDE

MANILA— A Catholic priest has urged the country’s Muslim religious leaders to lead in combatting radicalization and ‘save Islam’ from the hands of extremists.

Fr. Sebastiano D’ Ambra, an Italian missionary in southern Philippines, said the “alarming” situation in Mindanao requires more determination to work and spread the real message of Islam as “a religion of peace”.

“We cannot be blind anymore of many killings, massacres, cutting of the heads, often done saying ‘Bismillah’ (in the name of God),” said D’ Ambra in an open letter to Islamic leaders.

“Indeed, all of us suffer and I appeal to you to save the Islam and Mindanao from the hands of those who use Islam pushed by some foreign or local player behind this sad situation,” he said.

To drive his point, he cited the Abu Sayyaf, Islamic State, and the Maute group as among those who bring the name of Islam in their acts of violence and terrorism.

The priest said gestures of kindness of many Islamic leaders and other groups who do their best to build peace are “not enough”. “I wish to see more courage on your part,” he said.

“Well, you have the chance to save lives in many ways as Muslim religious leaders,” D’ Ambra said “as a friend in solidarity with you who suffer for what is going on in our beautiful land of Mindanao.”

“If you do not act with a sense of urgency now others who claim to be Muslims continue to oppress and kill and are ready to be killed, guided by their belief that doing so they can go to paradise,” he added.

More than 30 years ago, the missionary founded Silsilah Forum, a movement for “dialogue and peace” between Christians and Muslims that has gained international recognitions.

D’Ambra has been calling on Muslim religious leaders not to act “as if nothing were happening”, and act against the dangerous situation that people, not only the Christians but also for the moderate Muslims, are facing.

“Silsilah will continue its mission. I will also do my part, but please do more together in a form of ‘Ijma’ (consensus) for the common good of all. This is my hope and prayer,” he said.  CBCPNews



Christian, Muslim leaders push ‘peace education’ in schools

Government troops guard their positions outside damaged houses in Marawi City, September 19, 2017. VINCENT GO

MANILA— Top Christian and Muslim leaders said it’s time to give ‘peace education’ a chance in the country’s schools.

In a peace declaration made in Rome on Sept. 16, the religious leaders affirmed the lack of structured program of peace education and recommended that such should become part of the curriculum.

“We call for inclusion of peace education at all levels in our schools, madaris, and communities,” part of the declaration read.

“We need to build a culture of peace based on personal integrity, respect for human rights, inter-cultural dialogue, care for the environment, peaceful coexistence, and eradication of poverty,” it stated.

The declaration was signed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, Bishop Edwin dela Peña of Marawi, Dr. Said Zamahsari Salendab, Secretary General of the Hayatul Ulama in Mindanao, and Dr. Ustadz Abdulmuhmin Mujahid, Executive Director of the Regional Darul Ifta-ARMM.

Other signatories are Dr. Mauro Garofalo, Head of International Relations for the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio (CSE) and Mona Liza Pangan, a resident of the besieged city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur.

Current efforts at writing “a more inclusive history of Mindanao” that explore the root causes of conflict and depicts significant event and personalities from Muslim and indigenous people communities, they said, is a welcome development.

The declaration was the result of an informal dialogue on the peace process in Mindanao convened by the CSE in the presence of Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato and Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

They also called on for the promotion of peace through interreligious dialogue, stressing the role of young people in clearing misunderstanding about religious.

This dialogue, according to them, must move from the top to the grassroots levels of society.

“We commit ourselves to reach out to our youth, who will be the future leaders of our Mindanao communities. They have so much to contribute towards building our communities with a renewed vision of Mindanao as our shared homeland,” they said.

They also renewed their appeal for the legislators to “expedite” the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will govern the creation of a new autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines.

The proposed measure has been delayed since the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB) in March 2014.

“An approved BBL shall provide a positive alternative to violent extremism,” they said. CBCPNews



MILF to help secure Church’s rehab efforts for Marawi

Bishop Edwin dela Peña of Marawi answers questions from the media during a press conference about the local Church’s rehabilitation program that focuses on peace-building efforts in the besieged city. CBCPNews

MANILA— The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group offered security for a Catholic Church-based solidarity outreach program for internally displaced persons in Marawi conflict.

Bishop Edwin dela Peña of Marawi said that Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim himself assured help in the Church’s rehabilitation program that focuses on healing and peacebuilding efforts.

The prelate was with Murad in Rome recently for a meeting convened by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a global movement of laypeople known for its work with the poor and refugees.

The dialogue was attended by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato and other Muslim and Christian leaders as well as representatives of civil society from Mindanao.

“He (Murad) gave us assurance that they will provide us security,” Dela Peña said.

Under the “Duyog Marawi” program, the prelature will focus its operations on at least 13 coastal communities within the vicinity of Marawi.

These communities include Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Malabang, Balabagan, Picong, Marantao, Balindong, Bacolod-Calawi, Madamba, Ganassi, Calanogas, Marogong, Kapatagan, and Tugaya.

These areas were not devastated by the conflict but were “greatly affected” because they lost the center of their livelihoods and their basic services when Marawi was put on lockdown. They also played hosts to thousands of home-based internally displaced persons or IDPs.

“The MILF is patrolling in these areas. If you have Al Haj Murad with us then we can be assured of security,” Dela Peña said.

The MILF has been waging a decades-long rebellion to establish an independent or autonomous homeland in Mindanao for the nation’s Muslim minority.

The Duyog Marawi program will also help the communities of the Mindanao State University and the Balo-i Cathedral.

“We will do what we do best – community engagements and opportunities for healing and reconciliation,” the bishop said.

Dela Peña also asked Christian communities to continue caring for the Maranaos by sending support whether through the government, the Church, or other aid organizations.

“This is a critical moment in the history of Muslim and Christian relations in Marawi – this will either bring us closer or will widen the gap,” the bishop added.

“The peace in Marawi will not only benefit the Maranaos, it will benefit all of us – the whole of humanity. Let us show to the world that violent extremist ideas will not flourish in our lands,” he also said. CBCPNews